Despite the widespread usage of wireless-equipped handhelds, the paper-based business card is still very much with us (another nail in the coffin of the mythical 'paperless office'). Corex's CardScan Executive 600cx is a dedicated business card scanner/software bundle that can efficiently turn a pile of paper cards into a useful digital resource. Pop a card into this unobtrusive device, and in no time at all it will scan and OCR the data, extracting contact details to a database that can then be synchronised with a variety of other platforms, including Outlook, company databases, leading contact managers plus handhelds and smartphones. You also get an online address book at www.cardscan.net that's both a useful backup and a widely accessible resource. CardScan Executive 600cx is not cheap at £179.95 (inc. VAT), but it's among the best at what it does.
Installing the scanner is straightforward: first you load and start up the CardScan 6.0.5 software; then you connect the scanner's USB cable (which also delivers the scanner's power) and follow the Scanner Setup Wizard's instructions. The wizard detects, calibrates and tests the scanner, whereupon you're ready to go. All of this happened without a hitch in our evaluation.
To use the 600cx scanner, which measures a reasonably compact 16cm wide by 12cm deep (with the output tray down) and 5.5cm high, you'll need a PC running Windows 98 or later – there's no Mac support with this product.
Once set up, the CardScan 600cx is a joy to use. Feed a card into the input slot and the resulting colour scan is both fast and quiet (it's even faster in monochrome); next you're asked if you want to process the data now or scan a batch of cards; after processing, the CardScan application presents its results for correction and verification.
The system will handle portrait-orientated cards as well as landscape, and you can scan both sides of a card if necessary. There's no automatic feeder for multiple cards, but you can scan batches of cards manually for subsequent processing. Generally speaking, contact details were accurately recognised and assigned to the correct fields in the CardScan application, which has a straightforward Rolodex-style interface. You're only likely to encounter recognition problems with odd card materials (such as transparent), strange fonts and some shaded backgrounds.
Data is presented nicely in CardScan 6.0.5: you get Summary, Edit and list views of OCR'd information, plus an image of the original scan and areas to add notes and categorise your contacts. In Summary view, clicking on an email address launches your email client, while clicking on a phone number launches CardScan's phone dialler module. The program can exchange and synchronise contacts with a wide range of contact managers and PIMs, and can also synchronise with Palm and Pocket PC handhelds, plus Windows Mobile-based smartphones. A Data Exchange Wizard makes this process as painless as possible. If you use Outlook, you get a bonus: you can transfer the scanned images of business cards into the program.
CardScan Executive 600cx's best feature, however, is CardScan.Net, which is a Web-based backup of your contacts database. Once you've signed up for an account, you can synchronise your desktop and Web-based files either manually or automatically. Finally, if you also activate Corex's AccuCard service, then your contacts will receive periodic emails requesting that they update their details or confirm their veracity. With CardScan.Net and AccuCard, you get a browser-accessible backup of your contacts database that's also self-maintaining. Useful.
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